Recipes for Success: Chef Jill Lee Okkers of Tashas Group Talks New Menu and Shares a ‘Recent’ Recipe
DUBAI: Rising up in South Africa, Jill Lee Okkers nearly gave up on her dream of working as a chef.
The face behind Tashas Group’s flavors of eating places, that are making waves within the UAE and coming quickly to Saudi Arabia, was requested by her father to contemplate one thing extra steady.
“I wished to be a chef – my dad and mom advised me I could not,” Okkers advised Arab Information. “That was 17 years in the past, roughly. And at the moment, it was nonetheless a really male-dominated trade. It nonetheless is on some ranges.
“It was simply arduous and difficult as an trade and I feel my dad was very protecting and mentioned, ‘Hear, I feel perhaps you need to get an workplace job.’
“And so I studied journalism… I like meals and I like to cook dinner. However I wasn’t even certain I used to be going into this trade if it was really going to be my profession.”
This autumn, Avli by Tashas, the modern Athenian restaurant in DIFC Dubai, introduced the launch of a brand new a la carte menu. With the addition of 15 new dishes, it displays founder Natasha Sideris’ love of Greek delicacies, together with an eye fixed for perfection and a focus to element.
“It is very a lot Natasha’s imaginative and prescient that we have tried to placed on a plate,” Okkers mentioned. “Many instances, she offers me key phrases. For instance, with Avli’s newest menu, she mentioned, “I simply need recent stuff.” And we actually took that and made all the things on the menu as recent as attainable.
“So we went fully totally different to what we at the moment do at Avli, which was highly regarded and cooked and baked. In comparison with that, now we make it very recent, ethereal and lightweight. So numerous instances it is her course.”
With a level in Culinary Arts, Lee Okkers has been within the hospitality trade for over 15 years, holding positions resembling Head Chef and Improvement Chef. She has had the respect of serving the likes of Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.
Requested when her fascination with meals started, Lee Okkers factors to childhood household meals.
“I feel we had been a household that gathered across the desk fairly commonly. So for us, meals has at all times been a gathering and nearly like a secure house.
“Even immediately, we adults nonetheless collect across the desk at 6:00 p.m. to eat dinner. So for me it was at all times about seeing folks collect to eat and the enjoyment that got here from that as an entire and the satisfaction that got here from having a full stomach.
“And I feel simply the neighborhood of what was shared at a desk; Meals undoubtedly brings folks collectively.”
Lee Okkers shares with Arab Information her favourite meals, pet drops…and the significance of salt.
What was the commonest mistake you made when beginning out?
It is getting too scorching, I feel. So I inform my workforce, “at all times begin low and gradual,” particularly in a pan. Should you begin too excessive, it burns or overcooks and you need to begin over.
What’s your greatest recommendation for novice cooks?
At all times an excellent knife and an excellent chopping board. Many individuals are inclined to neglect this.
What ingredient can immediately enhance any dish and why?
God, salt! Additionally an excellent salt. I swear by Maldon—I season, cook dinner and end all the things with it. And it is really not a “salty” salt, not like (others) which can be fairly acidic and powerful within the mouth. One of the simplest ways to sweat onions is so as to add salt to attract out the water, and Maldon is ideal for that.
While you exit to eat, do you end up judging the meals? And what’s the most typical mistake or downside you discover?
I criticize the service greater than I do the meals. I am fairly adaptable if another person cooks for me I am tremendous completely satisfied. I at all times inform people who I’m the best particular person to cook dinner for. If somebody gives to make me a toasted cheese sandwich, I am like, “Oh, my God, thanks.” However I feel the largest factor I criticize greater than anything is the service.
What’s your favourite delicacies or dish once you exit?
I am often a giant fan of a extremely good bowl of noodles or ramen. And relying on the place I’m, I like a extremely good piece of fish. And simply one thing easy. It is simply garlic, olive oil, some lemon, nothing sophisticated. However then once more, it additionally takes lots to get a chunk of fish excellent.
What’s the buyer request or habits that annoys you probably the most?
I am typically open to numerous requests (however) we get some bizarre ones. At a Tashas cafe, somebody asks us to weigh all their meals.
When somebody needs to fully change a dish to suit a dietary requirement, I am similar to, I order one thing else or I do not depart the home. You are going to eat one thing that I do know you are not going to get pleasure from as a result of it isn’t what it is imagined to be. So there’s a high quality line as a result of I do not thoughts requests. However I additionally don’t desire folks to alter the entire imaginative and prescient of what we wish to current simply because they do not eat cheese or one thing.
What’s your favourite dish to cook dinner and why?
I feel my go-to dish at house is at all times an excellent, hearty steak as a result of it is one thing that comes collectively actually simply. And you realize, I put the potatoes within the oven, the garlic within the pan with butter, the steak. After which in one other pan, only a fast sauce happening the facet. It is the best factor to place collectively and occurs in simply 15-20 minutes, if not much less.
RECIPE: Dakos salad
You carry 4
Herb French dressing:
90 ml of olive oil
45 ml of pink wine vinegar
60 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of recent oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon of recent parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to season
Spicy Tomato Sauce:
250 g beef tomatoes, grated
50 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon of recent oregano, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season
250 g of feta
70 ml of cream
Utilizing an electrical hand whisk, beat the cream and feta till easy and creamy.
On the plate:
300 g carob biscuits
20 ml balsamic discount
Spicy tomato sauce
400 g outdated cherry tomatoes, reduce in half
100 g kalamata olives, inexperienced and black, reduce in half
Herb French dressing
The crushed lady
Salt and pepper to season
10 g of chopped dill
10 g torn basil
Add the carob pods, the balsamic discount and the spiced tomato sauce to a bowl. Combine effectively, letting the carobs take up a few of the dressing.
In one other bowl, add the heirloom cherry tomatoes, olives and herb French dressing. Season effectively.
On a big plate, add the carob combination and high with dollops of creamy feta. High the feta with tomatoes and olives. Drizzle the highest with any of the sauces left within the bowls.
Garnish with olive oil, chopped dill and torn basil leaves.
Sundried tomatoes or olives add further texture to the salad.
Maldon salt is most well-liked.